The Agency Of Eternal Darkness: An Approach To Scientific Images Of Deep Sea Exploration

Sigurjón Baldur Hafsteinsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The interest in visual images conveyed by various disciplinary fields within the natural sciences, like deep sea exploration, is generally not depicted in its social or cultural context. Nor are visual images granted social agency that influences the formation of social relations. Rather, the interest seems to be limited to a mere passive, descriptive and objective or documentary view where the concept of the creator or the image is not problematised. Following Alfred Gell (1998) I want to propose in this paper a theoretical sketch of how anthropologists can address questions of the efficacy of scientific images. This theoretical sketch challenges linguistically based theories within the nthropology of visual communication and shifts the focus towards ‘doing’ or mediated practices. I suggest that scientific images can be looked at as agents within the social processes of interaction of scientists that produce, circulate and represent images.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-307
JournalCritical Arts
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

Other keywords

  • scientific images
  • ethnography
  • agency
  • deep sea exploration
  • practice


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